This winter I rewatched one of my favorite television shows, Midnight Diner, a Japanese series set in a tiny, Tokyo restaurant. It’s a comforting and contemplative show, so different from the fast-paced Nordic noir and French dramas I tend to watch on Netflix.
The diner is open daily from midnight to seven in the morning. It has a limited menu, only pork-and-vegetable noodle soup, beer, and sake, but the owner, a man we only know as Master, makes anything a customer asks for—providing he has the ingredients. Often, it’s the special requests that lead viewers into an episode. Through the meals, a character’s backstory is revealed along with cracks in their personal relationships. Many characters live on the fringe of Japanese society—female escorts, transgender performers, strippers, gangsters, and a slew of lost souls. The Master’s food and the companionship of other diner customers heals these broken people.
The episodes are bittersweet, and don’t always end happily, yet the show is as satisfying as comfort food. It captures the complex and beautiful humanity of people too often overlooked.